Dante in Translation (ITAL 310)

In this lecture, Professor Mazzotta introduces Purgatory and proceeds with a close reading of Cantos I and II. The topography of Mount Purgatory is described, and the moral system it structures is contrasted with that of Hell. Dante’s paradoxical choice of Cato, a pagan suicide, as guardian to the entrance of Purgatory ushers in a discussion of freedom from the standpoint of classical antiquity, on the one hand, and Judaism, on the other. In his refusal to be enslaved by the past, both on earth and in the afterlife, Cato is seen to embody the virtues of exile, setting an example for the penitent souls of Ante-purgatory (Purgatory II), including the pilgrim, who still clings to the comforts of the past.

00:00 – Chapter 1. Purgatory as an Idea and as a Poetic Construction
07:34 – Chapter 2. Canto I: A New Departure
16:35 – Chapter 3. The Muses: Tonality and Orientation
23:27 – Chapter 4. Cato
30:14 – Chapter 5. Suicide; Purgatory as the Domain of Freedom
40:42 – Chapter 6. Canto II: Purgatory as the Antipodes of Jerusalem: Exodus
49:46 – Chapter 7. Internalizing the Narrative; The Exilic Condition; Casella
01:00:29 – Chapter 8. Question and Answer

Complete course materials are available at the Open Yale Courses website:

This course was recorded in Fall 2008.

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